In 2012, over the protests of thousands of Pennsylvanians, forty five organizations, and every Democrat in the state legislature, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law one of the strictest voter ID requirements in the country. The Speaker of the Pennsylvania House acknowledged that he pushed the law to help Mitt Romney win the state.
This morning the two-year-old law was ruled unconstitutional. Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley wrote that law was a “substantial threat” and that it would hinder the ability of many to vote freely.
In the ruling, Judge McGinley stated:
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”
People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council said of the law last year:
“The purpose of this law has been clear from the beginning. It was meant to keep African Americans, students, and other traditionally suppressed communities from exercising our hard-won right to vote. Even the law’s supporters have admitted that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Instead, this law is a purely political attempt to disenfranchise citizens who have every right to vote. I am dismayed at today’s decision and hope that as this case moves through the courts, our judges recognize the ugly intent and real consequences of voter ID.”
A Republican state representative in Pennsylvania is circulating a memo calling for the impeachment of the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, for her “misbehavior in office” and “violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties.” Earlier, a Republican state senator also called for her impeachment and asked the legislature to reduce her office’s budget.
Kane recently said that she “cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA” because “it is wholly unconstitutional.”
The state representative proposing impeachment, Daryl Metcalfe, recently stopped an openly gay colleague from speaking in favor of marriage equality on the state house floor after the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on marriage, saying is colleague was in “rebellion against God’s law.” Metcalfe even opposed a resolution condemning domestic violence because he feared it would advance the “homosexual agenda.”
All public officials in Pennsylvania swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of this Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Attorneys Act imposes a mandatory duty on the Attorney General to defend the constitutionality of lawfully enacted statutes in any challenge filed in court.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane recently made a public declaration that she would not defend a federal lawsuit challenging the statutory definition of marriage. Ironically, Attorney General Kane explained that she could not “ethically” defend a law that she believed to be “wholly unconstitutional,” but making such a public statement that hinders the defense of the litigation violates the ethics rules that all attorneys are bound to follow.
In the near future, I will be introducing a resolution containing articles of impeachment against Attorney General Kane. Impeachment is a rarely used, but extremely important, tool to address misbehavior in office. Attorney General Kane’s violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties cannot be tolerated if our system of government is to work properly.
Attorney General Kane’s refusal to follow the law already led to further violations of the law when the Montgomery County Register of Wills cited Kane’s decision as a reason to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When the Commonwealth Court entered an order that stopped this practice, the Court reiterated the well-established principle that every act of the legislature is presumptively constitutional until a court declares otherwise. Attorney General Kane has created a constitutional crisis by refusing to perform her assigned role and usurping the role of the courts.
It is our duty to stop her from engaging in further misbehavior in office.
Not to be outdone by PA's Department of Health and Human Services recently comparing gay and lesbian couples to 12-year-olds, Lehigh County PA Tea Party Commissioner Tom Creighton Wednesday explained his opposition to an initiative to expand benefits to to same-sex partners with this doozy: "I don't feel the county should be looking for new ways to give away taxpayer money. Next it could be giving money to people's pets or whatever."
Creighton sponsored the sole amendment to the 2014 county budget, pushing back against County Executive Matt Croslis’ expansion of benefits to same-sex partners whose marriage is recognized in another state.
Creighton is up for reelection this November and is evidently not vying hard for the canine vote. Thankfully even most household dogs understand bad analogies better than Creighton.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett hasn’t been helping his own approval ratings lately.
A Corbett administration legal brief filed on August 28th regarding the state’s same-sex marriage ban seemed to argue that same-sex marriage is analogous to the marriage of two 12-year-olds. Corbett rejected that argument after the fact in a written statement, but then in a TV interview made an even worse analogy.
On WHY-TV’s ‘Ask The Governor” segment Friday morning, a smirking Corbett called his legal advisors’ analogy ‘inappropriate,’ but then asked the news anchor interviewing him ‘I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”
The shocked news anchor didn’t quite know what to say other than “I don’t know,” and attempted to move on to the next question after saying she was going to leave the comments to Corbett.
Things didn’t get much better from there, with Corbett saying Federal courts shouldn’t get involved in Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage cases because the U.S. Supreme Court left that decision up to the states, failing to specify what court case to which he was referring. Later Friday morning Corbett then was forced to apologize for his offensive comparison of same-sex marriage and sibling incest. Corbett’s approval ratings continue to drop after a stream of self-inflicted gaffes he has made, even when given questions in advance; leading Philadelphia Independent and Watchdog.org reporter Eric Boehm to label the Governor ‘Gaffe-tastic.’
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is proving once again that his priorities are out of line with the rest of the state: He just hired lawyer William H. Lamb for $400 an hour to defend a 1996 law banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
Even though the state’s attorney general declined to fight the case— and even though a majority of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality—Governor Corbett still thinks it’s worth spending $400 per hour of taxpayer money, plus $325 per hour for others in Lamb’s firm working on the case, to stop LGBT Pennsylvanians from being able to marry the person they love. It’s also worth noting that this law firm donated $39,500 to Corbett’s political campaigns between 2004 and 2012. Given the recent revelation that Governor Corbett’s former chief of staff is still being paid despite supposedly resigning, perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that Corbett is putting someone else on the government payroll unnecessarily.
Still, why fire your friends or let your discriminatory laws go undefended when you can just cut education funding? Why put your personal and ideological priorities aside, when the state’s children are there to take the hit? I’m sure school kids in Philadelphia won’t mind their ballooning class sizes or their after-school programs being cancelled when they know that money is being put to such good use, fighting a law to prevent people who love each other from being able to marry. Welcome to Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, we brought you the story of the Corbett administration comparing gay marriage to marriage between 12-year-olds. Now, Governor Corbett is attempting to tamp down criticism without making any substantive changes to policy. A brief filed by his administration argued that gay marriage licenses had no “value or legitimacy” and that issuing those licenses would be like issuing marriage licenses to 12-year-olds:
“Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?”
On Thursday, Corbett admitted that “[t]he analogy chosen in the legal brief filed on August 28th is inappropriate." Whoa, settle down, Governor— “inappropriate?” Strong word there, that’s some real no-holds barred talk.
Generous as it is of Corbett to acknowledge this comparison was inappropriate—let alone offensive, dumb and condescending—this admission doesn’t change much. The brief still stands; the lawsuit to stop marriage licenses being issued in Montgomery County will continue; and the officials who wrote the brief still work for the governor. The official who wrote this, who thinks that gay people are as incapable of legitimate consent as children, is still a part of the state government, charged with serving the people of Pennsylvania and representing their interests. Sadly, though, with Corbett as governor, a weak apology like this might be the best we can hope for.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has been floundering recently, facing personnel problems and dire poll numbers. But his abysmal public approval ratings aren’t stopping the governor from charging full steam ahead on his extreme agenda. A brief filed by the Corbett administration today in its lawsuit to stop Montgomery County, PA from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples argues that gay marriage licenses have no “value or legitimacy,” and that issuing those licenses is just like issuing marriage licenses to 12-year-olds:
“Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?”
Unfortunately, we’re all too used to this form of argument, where homosexuality’s legitimacy is dismissed or ridiculed by comparing it to any number of things, from bestiality to alcoholism or even murder. Now, we know that the governor of Pennsylvania is also struggling to understand the concept of consent, which is what makes gay marriage actually nothing at all like children getting married: children can’t consent, adults can. These actions show Corbett’s deep misunderstanding of marriage equality, and an inability (or refusal) to see it for what it is. They also show that, despite the great Supreme Court victories for gay rights this year, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Guest post from Reverend Dr. Geraldine Pemberton, Assistant Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia and member of PFAW Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council.
As a 74 year old retired nurse, I can remember the original March on Washington well. I wasn’t able to be there in person that day, but many of my family members were. After marching with Dr. King and more than 200,000 other Americans, they were inspired to come home and fight for justice.
I myself am of the Jim Crow era. The injustices that Dr. King described that day as the “chains of discrimination” were injustices I faced first-hand. My father, who was born in North Carolina, would take my family down from Philadelphia for visits to his home state. He would try to prepare us as much as he could, but it was always overwhelming. I remember that once we passed the Mason-Dixon line, we couldn’t use most bathrooms. We would have to use outhouses behind gas stations instead.
Today I can see how far we’ve come, but also how much further we still have to go. I have spent much of my life fighting the injustices that drove the first March on Washington, especially health disparities facing women of color. Justice, I have learned, is a very big umbrella that must include equality for women. A just society has to be one that values women’s voices and fights back against health disparities that threaten black women’s lives.
Twenty years after that march, I went to another major event that inspired people from all over to drop what they were doing and travel across the country – the 1983 Spelman College conference on women’s health, which birthed what is now the Black Women’s Health Imperative. My friend and I saw a flyer for it but didn’t think we could afford to go. We maxed out our credit cards and drove down to Atlanta. Thousands of women showed up for the conference – young women, older women, women with children, women who had hitchhiked there. We just showed up - we had to be there.
That conference unfolded into a lifetime of work in pursuit of improving the health outcomes of African American women. As a former Director of Nursing and a current Health Committee Director for an alliance of Black clergy in Philadelphia, I know that women of color need improved access to care and greater provider sensitivity. Women need more information on the diseases that affect us most. And as a 74 year old Philadelphian, I’m still fighting for women’s health and justice. This year I am organizing health forums at churches throughout the city to give women more information about diseases, healthy living, and greater access to health services though the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act commonly known as “Obamacare.”
The first health forum is this weekend – fifty years after the March on Washington. In so many ways, we are still marching.
Five members of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressional delegation, led by Rep. Mike Doyle, are calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to immediately speak out against an Electoral College reapportionment bill sponsored by state Republicans, calling the bill a “gross betrayal of all Pennsylvanians.”
In a letter to the governor, Rep. Doyle, Rep. Robert A. Brady, Rep. Chaka Fattah, Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz and Rep. Matthew A. Cartwright warn of the potential damaging consequences of passing the bill, including the reduction of Pennsylvania’s influence in national elections and loss of revenue related to Presidential elections.
“It’s hard to imagine state legislation capable of doing more damage to the economic well-being and political power of the residents of Pennsylvania than Senate Bill 528,” Congressman Doyle said today. “Enacting S.B. 528 would be like shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s why we urged Governor Corbett to actively oppose this malicious legislation.”
“The governor has avoided questions on his support for this plan for too long. As the chorus of voices against the bill grows louder, his silence only gets more deafening. This bill is a transparently partisan attempt to rig the Electoral College in favor of Republican presidential candidates. Instead of trying to appeal to Pennsylvanians with sound policies, they’re rigging the game at the expense of Pennsylvania. With more and more voters and their representatives voicing strong opposition, we’re confident the governor will be forced to drop this shameful attack on Pennsylvania’s interests,” said Randy Borntrager, Political Director of People For the American Way.
The letter adds to a growing list of prominent opponents to the bill, from gubernatorial candidates to Republican state senators. People For the American Way has been fighting this bill since it was introduced, delivering more than 100,000 petitions to Gov. Corbett, knocking on over 5,000 doors, and hosting press conferences with a number of local leaders and elected officials to show the widespread opposition to this bill.
The letter can be found at: http://www.pfaw.org/sites/default/files/PA-Electoral-Rigging-Bill-Letter.pdf
Philadelphia Weekly recently interviewed Diane Gramley, head of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association, about an employment nondiscrimination law working its way through the state legislature. The interview was so good that today they decided to publish a transcript of the whole thing.
After lamenting that the gay people don’t want to be just “accepted,” but instead “want us to celebrate their sin,” Gramley goes on to argue that employment nondiscrimination laws aren’t needed because Pennsylvania has openly gay elected officials, so “where’s the proof that they’re being discriminated against?”
OK. So, we have two openly-gay members of the state House currently, Brian Sims and Mike Fleck. Are you worried about the work that they’re doing in Harrisburg—not just HB 300, but, say, the anti-bullying bill?
It’s the same type of situation. The anti-bullying bill is not necessarily about anti-bullying. To me, an anti-bullying bill does not have a list of protected classes. All students should be protected. I know the U.S. Department of Education is pushing this anti-bullying thing with sexual identity and orientation.
As far as being concerned, I know when Mike Fleck came out in December, he said nothing had changed. But down deep, I knew that things had changed, because most of those legislators, no matter where they’re at, or what level of government it is, who are open homosexuals, will be pushing their agenda.
And that’s the evidence right there. They both signed onto HB 300 and I know that Fleck was part of Equality Forum in April. I am concerned. But they’re saying they’re being discriminated against. One of the main mantras is that being gay can get you fired.
Right. That’s true. It can.
I’ve been to many local township or borough or even county meetings where that’s one of the main lines they use. But where’s the evidence? We have two open homosexuals who are state legislators. We have Dan Miller, who ran for mayor in Harrisburg, an open homosexual. He’s the controller right now, you know. So, where’s the proof that they’re being discriminated against?
OK, but that’s them. That’s three people. Wouldn’t it be easier for people who are gay to have laws in place to say they couldn’t be fired or couldn’t be refused staying in a hotel, just for their own sake?
But where’s the proof that it happens? That’s my whole thing. Where’s the proof that such happens?
Are you saying it doesn’t happen at all?
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen at all, but as far as the need to pass a law that you get into a situation where a homosexual is—if this law passes, if a homosexual is not hired or maybe fired from their job simply because they’re not doing their job properly, then their excuse could be, ‘I’m going to sue the company because I was fired because I was a homosexual.’ You could set up scenarios like that.
I guess that’s a possibility. But you could say that about anything, about the Civil Rights Act.
Which has nothing to do with homosexuality. The civil rights fight was dealing with an immutable characteristic. No one can change their skin color. No one can change from where they—their nationality. With the homosexual rights—quote, unquote, rights fight—they’re talking about something that can be changed. Homosexuality is not immutable. And I know a number of ex-gays. So, it is not something that cannot be changed.
Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, an openly gay legislator, was blocked from speaking on the floor of the state House on Wednesday by a colleague who believed Sims’ plans to speak about the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision would be in "open rebellion against God’s law.”
According to WHYY, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe raised a procedural objection to stop Sims from speaking during a part of the House session in which legislators often give wide-ranging remarks.
"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," said Metcalfe, R-Butler.
Metcalf is a far-right legislator who has sponsored a marriage amendment to the state’s Constitution and “birther” legislation, and called for overturning birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment in order to “bring an end to the illegal alien invasion.”
Sims, who said he appreciated the apologies and support he received from other Republican members of the House, has asked the legislature to reprimand Metcalfe for his comments.
Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro broke an important glass ceiling this week, becoming the first openly lesbian Latina confirmed to a federal judgeship. The Senate confirmed her by voice vote to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania yesterday. Previously Quiñones served for more than two decades on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
The Washington Blade notes that Quiñones is only the seventh openly LGBT person in our country’s history to be confirmed as a federal judge.
PFAW has advocated for more diversity in the judiciary, applauding President Obama’s push to bring qualified judges from many backgrounds to the federal bench. Issuing decisions that affect all communities, the federal bench – and all benches – must reflect the diversity of our nation.
Last year President Obama said he was committed to ensuring that “the judiciary resembles the nation it serves.” This week’s confirmation is an important step toward that goal.
The pushback against Pennsylvania Republicans’ electoral vote-rigging bill continues to grow, as more and more public officials and average voters call on Governor Corbett to dump the hyper-partisan scheme plan.
On Monday, People For the American Way held a press conference in Philadelphia with state Senator Anthony Williams and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, who said that he fears this legislation represents “more of the same” partisan tactics that we saw with last year’s voter ID bill.
Yesterday in the state capitol of Harrisburg, state Auditor Eugene DePasquale and state Treasurer Rob McCord added to the calls for Corbett to put aside partisan politics and “stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right.’” McCord warned that the bill would mean millions in lost economic activity, and called it a “shame.” DePasquale said that the bill would greatly reduce the influence of Pennsylvania in national elections by limiting the number of electoral votes in play to 3 or 4, similar to small states like Wyoming. “When was the last time you saw a major policy announcement from a president in Wyoming?,” he asked.
With the chorus of voices against the bill growing ever louder, from both Democrats and Republicans, it’s becoming harder and harder for Corbett to maintain his tacit support for this scheme. If Pennsylvanians keep speaking out against this bill, Corbett won’t be able to act like he can’t hear us for much longer.
Top Pennsylvania elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, state Treasurer Rob McCord, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and state Sen. Anthony Williams, Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla, along with J. Whyatt Mondesire, Philadelphia President of the NAACP, will hold two press events next week calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to denounce his party’s plan to rig Pennsylvania’s electoral vote.
Brady, Williams, Squilla and Mondesire will speak at a press event in Philadelphia on Monday, June 3. McCord and DePasquale will hold a press event in Harrisburg on Tuesday, June 4.
Gov. Corbett has evaded questions about a plan proposed by state Sen. Dominic Pileggi that would dilute Pennsylvania’s influence in Presidential elections. In April, People For the American Way delivered over 100,000 petitions urging the governor to reject the plan.
WHEN: Monday, June 3, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia, 1906 South Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
SPEAKERS: U.S. Congressman Robert Brady, State Senator Anthony Williams, City Councilman Mark Squilla, NAACP Philadelphia President J. Whyatt Mondesire, People For the American Way Political Director Randy Borntrager
WHEN: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Soldier's Grove, Harrisburg, PA
SPEAKERS: Treasurer Rob McCord, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, People For the American Way Political Director Randy Borntrager